Application

 Oxford

 Balliol

 Mathematics

 2006

 offer made

Applicant

 A-levels

 pre-qualification

 home

 United Kingdom

 Grammar School

 yes (9 A*,3 A)

A-levels

(A at AS (243 UMS); predicted A; gained NA at A2)

(B at AS (237 UMS); predicted A; gained NA at A2)

(A at AS (261 UMS); predicted A; gained NA at A2)

(NA at AS (581 UMS); predicted NA; gained A at A2)

(NA at AS; predicted A; gained NA at A2)

(A at AS (283 UMS); predicted A; gained NA at A2)

Cambridge STEP Maths

(predicted NA; gained 2)

At the time of Application I had a Maths A-Level (581) and a 2 in STEP I, with AS’s in Physics, Chemistry and English Lit.

Details about the offer

 conditional

A in Mathematics (Further)

A, The offer was AAA with A’s in Maths and Further Maths and excluding General Studies.

yes

yes

yes

I have an offer from Imperial, am still waiting from LSE and Warwick. I don’t know whether you’d consider them on a par with Oxbridge, I suppose they are close.

 grades pending/unknown

Decisions about the application

I thought Oxford was the nicest town of any of the ‘decent’ universities and it is also one of the best universities in the world, what more do you want?

Oxford seemed to have far more life than Cambridge and I thought I would have a more enjoyable 3/4 years.

Maths has also been my best subject and I thought it would be the most interesting one to continue to degree level.

Balliol was the nicest college I looked around and the students seemed cool. It has a great location and was 2nd in the league of colleges yet seemed far more chilled out than Merton. It is however one of the most competitive colleges but then it’s meant to have a good record of getting applicants into other colleges so you should be OK.

Preparation

no

I went to the Oxbridge Preparation Day at LSE. I thought it was interesting but is probably more of use to arts students than prospective scientists. However the questions I was asked there gave me some idea of what to expect.

Read ahead in your A-Level textbooks. I was asked to do something using proof by induction that isn’t taught until the final chapter of FP3. I had taught myself how to do it so was OK. Look at the specimen Oxford papers and prepare for the obvious questions. Get used to potential interview questions and how you would go about solving them.

Interview

no

no

yes

The Oxford Maths Exam, specimen papers are available on the website, I found it challenging but I managed to do every question without guessing and had time to thoroughly check over it at the end. I thought it was similar to the specimens except for Q5 which was considerably easier.

I thought my first interview went really well, I could answer every question although it took me a while to understand what they wanted me to do for one of the questions.

My second and final interview was at Queens and although I couldn’t do everything and it took me a while to get some stuff it was much much harder yet despite of this I gave it my best shot and having seen the answers I think I did as well as I could.

Someone at Cambridge got asked “If you could spend 30 minutes with any mathematician past or present, who would it be?”. Be prepared for that sort of question. I was totally prepared for maths questions and a couple about books etc but I hadn’t really thought about having a favourite mathematician to mention.

At the end of the second interview I was also asked what poets I was studying in English lit! This couldn’t have been more unexpected and I said ‘John Donne’ and then had to confess my mind had gone blank.

Why Maths?
How well do you think you’ve done in the exam?
Draw lnx/x and use this to solve a^b=b^a
Some question involving three straight lines and the maximum point of their minimums.
A divisibility proof using induction. Prove that 7^n-4^n is divisible by 3.

Second interview
The questions asked all involved the function
f(1)=1 f(2n)=f(n) f(2n+1)=f(n)+1
The final question was to work out f(n). I didn’t get this and it is HARD. Unless there is a different way to what I have seen I don’t think they expected me to get it.

I wore a smart shirt with trousers and shoes but no tie/suit. I think it’s important to feel comfortable and by dressing smartly I believed more in myself and it reinforces the idea that you are in a serious interview and need to perform at your best.

Impressions

During the interview period I had friends staying at Teddy Hall, Pembroke and Wadham. They all seemed nice but I think that Balliol is the nicest.

Room was quite small but who cares, all I plan to do in there is sleep. One thing I would warn about is churches. I found it really hard to sleep as every 15 minutes there were church bells ringing… You get used to that sort of thing though and I was struggling to sleep anyway…

I only ate in college a couple of times, seemed fine, if I make the grades I expect I’ll cook for myself a fair bit as its cheaper.

Very friendly

Seemed normal, far less nerdy than the Cambridge students I met.

Final stage

Anxiety, I thought I’d done well and done justice to myself, but it is Oxford, its impossible to know if you have got in.

I checked the post saw a letter from Balliol, it was quite thick, I opened it saw AAA on the page inside and then hysteria.

Looking back

Of course.

Believe in yourself. There were 540 applicants for 120 places at Balliol this year so obviously not everyone can be made an offer, but ultimately some will. If you don’t think you deserve a place you won’t get one. Don’t be arrogant but be confident in your own abilities and if you do justice to yourself in the interview you can be content that if you get rejected it wasn’t meant to be anyway.